Edwards Diving Services was founded 25 years ago by ex-navy diver Paul Edwards, based from a converted barn at his home farm. The business offers a highly specialist set of services in the marine and civil engineering sector as well as a raft of other skills involving maintenance and repairs, safety inspections and rescue & recovery services.
Now operating from a large industrial base in the heart of Caerphilly, the business has evolved steadily in line with the needs of its customers to provide a complete turn-key solution to any issue, anywhere in the UK; all 22 members of staff are trained to deliver all aspects of the company’s portfolio so that jobs can be scaled up or down as required. This unique business model has seen them reach ahead of their competitors and secure new business in new markets, providing steady and manageable growth in terms of profit and resources.
EDS’ core business services are based around water and include inspections, repairs, maintenance and upgrades – in confined spaces such as culverts, water courses, roads and tanks – as well as large scale projects like dams and reservoirs, sea defences and harbours, barrages and piers. Their clients are both public and private and range from local authorities and government bodies to national utility companies and global manufacturers. EDS also provides rescue teams and recovery services where specialist skills are needed.
At the heart of the business is a well-equipped in-house engineering workshop capable of producing one-off solutions for a wide range of client requirements, serving infrastructure that dates from the Victorian era through to modern-day. Having this facility in-house allows the team to provide a complete solution – once a problem has been identified by the divers, it can be brought to the workshop where the team can work on producing the bespoke parts needed to repair it immediately.
Steve Richings, Commercial Director, is very proud of the company’s unique and collaborative approach and describes how it has led to many exciting business development opportunities.
“Some of our major clients have requested our help with some very difficult problems and it has given us an opportunity to create a new market for ourselves, bringing in some exciting Research & Development projects to support the tasks – including building specialist underwater vehicles to access awkward places.”
“It has been a really exciting opportunity to be brought in at such a high level to develop these solutions and it is a credit to our unique, multi-disciplined team.”
The business was first introduced to Construction Futures Wales in 2016 when Steve Richings and Joanna Edwards (Business Development) were offered a place on the Leadership & Management Course, following a Company Health Check to identify areas for improvement within the business.
“I really wanted to carry on with our own personal development within the business and the Construction Futures Wales Leadership & Management course fitted perfectly with where we wanted to improve the business and our own leadership skills.”
“It is sometimes hard when you are so busy doing the job to find the time to improve yourself, but it’s important that we continue to provide effective leadership in the business. When we attended the first session we both thought ‘How are we going to do this!?’ but we are both so glad we have.”
Joanna and Steve both completed the Level 5/7 course with Steve achieving a Level 7 and Joanna Level 5.
“We were both in a great position as leaders in the business already, every classroom session just highlighted more ways of improving things – we needed a de-brief after each one to formalise our ideas before returning to the office!”
“The business has grown naturally, and we’ve made lots of changes over the years, putting new processes in place and maintaining a steady base of customers, that continues to grow, but also expand laterally with the services which we can provide to each client.
“We like to play to people’s strengths within the team and use people’s expertise to full effect. For example, last year we were dealing with a big environmental issue and Joanna took the lead on site because of her expertise in Environmental Engineering, even though her day-to-day role is more about business development.”
Reflecting upon the course content, Joanna feels that the biggest change she has made has been a personal one:
“I feel we have both learned to be more aware of how we affect the team and how to manage change in the business more effectively. I’m so glad we did it as it has been really beneficial to the business and to us as individuals too – we are far more conscious of the implications of change, how it affects our team and how adapting the delivery of change can really influence how the team engages, to even developing personal ownership.”
“The lecturers always tried to give good examples and adapt the circumstances to fit our business – it was hard to apply in some cases as we are so different from normal ‘builders’ but the overall objective was still met. My key learning point from the course was to understand my role as a Coach, maintaining and motivating engagement rather than just managing, – its more meaningful now, not just a case of ‘getting stuff done.’ “
Steve also believes their approach to presenting changes has benefitted enormously:
“We now really look at how things are going and how people are going to be affected – it has made us much more considered and we recognise the importance of our people in terms of our business growth. We are less reactive and more strategic in our decisions.”
On a practical level, Joanna has also developed her financial skills as a result of the workshops and is very pleased with the results:
“Trying to put together cash flow forecasts has always been a headache for us as work is rarely planned due to the reactive nature of our industry. However, using the skills learned at the workshop I have been able to look at it again, using the course tools and ratios, previous trends and pipeline value, which has helped hugely. Benchmarking the business was a really good exercise and we look forward to repeating it again next year to see how far we’ve come.”
Edwards Diving Services’ latest project is about facilitating remote access – moving their systems to the Cloud to improve reaction times and flexibility.
“Every week something in our scheduled plan changes and we need to be able to be more responsive to this and the key is mobile working.”
“We recognised the importance of maintaining good communication in a big dynamic team where lots of unexpected changes happen, so we are working with a local company to design bespoke software, which is now being built, to enable us to become leaner and more effective.”
“We are looking forward to developing some exciting new markets in the new year, bringing together some of our own innovations and working with new clients.”